First Brigade Prepares for Challenges of Iraq - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/05/06

First Brigade Prepares for Challenges of Iraq

Dozens of Iraqis who fled their country now work as role players and cultural coaches to the soldiers. Dozens of Iraqis who fled their country now work as role players and cultural coaches to the soldiers.

Even though he worries about explosions and shootouts, Staff Sgt. Timothy Smith worries about the simple searches he'll lead during a year in Iraq. He knows a miscue or miscommunication could lead to trouble. That's why he treats simulations like the real thing.

"Most of these guys are new, three to nine months here, so it's important to get them here and get their head in the game," he told us.

They have some unusual help. Dozens of Iraqis who fled their country now work as role players and cultural coaches to the soldiers. They're normally based at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. But to speed up the brigade's preparation, the NTC's instructors and role players came here for weeks of work.

"We try to teach them some cultural things, like how to go into meetings, try to teach some Arabic words to help in first meetings," said a man who used the name Mazraa in his role as the mayor of one of the fictitious Iraqi villages in a training simulation.

The Iraqis are often uncooperative for a reason. In free play, the role players confront the soldiers to try to get their adrenaline racing, push them and push them, and when they stop to catch their breath, come at them with something new.

"That alone, combined with a lack of sleep, it really stresses units and individuals," confided Lt. Col. Noel Nicolle, commander of First Brigade's First Battalion.

Sgt. Smith hopes the more realistic stress they face here, the more prepared they'll be there.

First Brigade is expected to deploy in January to Iraq for 12 months.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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